Pastoral centre gets temporary reprieve

Pastoral centre gets temporary reprieve

8 August 2018

PLANNERS have agreed to allow a pastoral centre in Saul to remain in place for two more years.

They were initially recommending that an application to retain the building at St Patrick’s Road in the village should be refused as the proposal is contrary to rural planning policy and is impacting on nearby properties which enjoy protected status.

However, planners backed down following an appeal by Downpatrick councillor Gareth Sharvin at last week’s meeting of Newry, Mourne and Down Council’s Planning Committee when permission for the Portacabin-type building was extended until 2020.

The pastoral centre is located beside St Patrick’s Church and is widely regarded as a valuable community resource which is frequently used by local people across a wide rural area for pastoral meetings, monthly coffee mornings after mass and support services for the public.

In papers submitted ahead of last week’s planning meeting, planners said both St Patrick’s Church and the adjoining parochial house enjoy listed building protection and that the pastoral centre did not reflect their style and there are no overriding reasons why it should be allowed to remain in place. Temporary planning approval for the building was initially granted in 2016.

The papers said the temporary permission was granted despite planners recommending it should be refused. In addition, planners say politicians should be aware that temporary permission is granted to allow a “period of time in which to come up with a permanent and more appropriate solution to the accommodation needs of the parish.”

Welcoming the planners’ decision, Cllr Sharvin said as part of the consultation process on the planning application to retain the building, the Historic Building and Monuments branch stated its support in permitting a further temporary extension for the centre.

Addressing the planning meeting, Cllr Sharvin again emphasised that the pastoral centre provides a vital service to the rural community.

“The difference of views from planning officers in the lead up to the recommended decision was conflicting,” he suggested. “From speaking with the case officer, the discussion started from a possible unconditional approval, to a temporary approval and then a senior planner recommending a refusal.

“The case officer’s report did not show the consultation response from Historic Buildings which stated support for a temporary extension and work through a permanent solution for the pastoral centre.”

Cllr Sharvin said the Historic Buildings team clearly understood the importance of the centre to the Saul and Ballee community and did not wish to close it.

He said temporary approval for two more years is welcome and will allow the building to continue providing an essential service for the community, with the hard work now beginning to understand the building’s future options.

“I will be organising a meeting with the Historic Buildings department, planners, parish committee members, planning agent and myself to discuss how we can work towards a permanent solution that is workable for all interested parties,” said Cllr Sharvin.

He added: “The parish feel the current building is a great asset for the community and fully accept that the current site may not be ideal, but are limited with space due to the sensitive nature around the church cemetery. For a permanent structure to be built, the parish require100 per cent finance to be in place before anything can begin and that itself is a challenge.”

Mr Michael Bailie, of MB Architectural Design Services, who spoke on behalf of Saul parish during the planning meeting, explained there has been a growing need for a pastoral centre within the parish.

He added: “This is an application for a facility essential for the well-being of a broad community base. Its need arises out of a rapidly changing relation between the church and the community. The local community has benefited greatly from the success of the present provision and, with that experience, is now in a position to better assess future needs.”

A spokeswoman for Newry, Mourne and Down Council confirmed that permission for the temporary pastoral centre in Saul had been extended for two more years following last week’s planning committee meeting.